Years ago, while in the throes of my first bout with depression, a very good friend gave me the clarity I needed to eventually find my way back to happiness. He made what became a life-changing distinction for me between emotional intelligence and intellectual smarts.
At the time I was wrestling with the weight of my sadness, which made it very difficult to see anything ‘clearly’. I was angry with myself for not being able to make ‘intelligent decisions’, for not being able to figure out how to efficiently move myself forward. My friend gently said, ‘Carla, stop trying to think your way through an emotional experience. You don’t need intellectual intelligence to get you through this, you need heart-smarts‘.
I’d never considered that I could be more adept in one area, or even that they were altogether separate abilities. Once I learned to trust my heart, I felt my emotional intelligence strengthen and bloom. Erasing the belief that the brain knows best allowed me to eventually feel my way in the dark, all the way back to being happy. In fact I’ve found my heart to be a more reliable compass for me than any learned intellectual acumen.
We spent this past weekend working the Triangle Wine Experience in Raleigh, where all proceeds go to The Frankie Lemmon School for kids with developmental disabilities. We visited the school in order to meet the kids and see what their daily classes entailed. My heart felt raw simply being there. These kids run the gamut of developmental disabilities, and yet at 3-4 years old, they don’t appear to be struggling with any negative self-awareness because of their place on the spectrum. We watched as they sang songs and danced, and tears rolled down my face as my heart swelled: these kids were illustrating pure, unadulterated joy! They were closer to what I imagine enlightenment must be like than I’ve ever been, that’s for sure.
At one point one little girl turned to me, a total stranger, ran up and hugged my legs with all her might. I completely melted: I loved her with everything I had! I was so grateful to her for her lesson in the richness of being heart-smart. She had no idea who I was, and yet her free heart knew how good hugs feel, and she just went for it. It was truly one of the most perfect decisions I’ve ever witnessed. She was heart-brilliant.
Intellectual intelligence is a wonderful thing, but the heart is my true captain. To be heart-smart is to be alive, to be available to all that this life has to offer. And while it is definitely a more vulnerable existence, for my money, it’s our most magnificent form of development as human beings.